10 fun things to do in St. Louis

St. Louis

St. Louis Arch and the Old Courthouse

Almost anyone who has been to St. Louis or has thought about St. Louis likely knows its top two attractions – the Arch and zoo. What about the other great places to visit or the “secrets” that few tourists know about or take advantage of? We’ve compiled our list of 10ish interesting spots to check out in St. Louis, in addition to the Arch and St. Louis Zoo.

St. Louis has the most attractions without admission charges outside of Washington, DC. You’d be amazed at how many great attractions offer free admission. There may be additional fees for special exhibits, but for the most part, the attractions are free.

In no particular order:

City Museum

The best way to describe City Museum is it’s a playground for kids of all ages. And we do mean all ages. The first floor truly is a playground. It has climbing spots, a slide and other attractions that appeal to the younger generations.

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Tunnel at City Museum

As you move higher through the floors, you see more adult-themed attractions, though there are plenty for all ages scattered about. Circus acts entertain families and friends. Toddler play areas, train rides and skateboard areas attract several people.

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City Museum has a ton of unique attractions

Modern art is located throughout the building. You never know what you may see as you tour the City Museum.

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Architecture of several old St. Louis buildings are on display

We really liked the architecture attraction. The museum collects pieces of old St. Louis buildings targeted for demolition or renovation and keep a piece of that history on display.

There is a roller coaster on top of the building. During our visit, it was closed due to weather. But, it’s on our list to see next time we’re in the area.

Anheuser-Busch brewery tour

Anyone NOT know St. Louis is home to Budweiser and its famed Clydesdale horses? The brewery offers free tours almost daily. Visitors get to see how beer is made – from hops, wheat and barley – to the cold drink in your hands.

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Budweiser tour is fun

One of our favorite stops is the horse barn. We lucked out one day and saw a couple of Clydesdales in the corral.

The horse barn is a comfy spot for the horses. It’s well-ventilated and maintained. Anheuser-Busch treats these animals quite well, since they are one of the most recognizable parts of the company.

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Dalmatian in horse barn

A Dalmatian even hung out with the horses.

Visitors get to sample drinks at the end of the tour. For non-drinkers, soda and water are available.

Missouri Botanical Gardens

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Missouri Botanical Gardens are beautiful

The botanical gardens are among the most beautiful we’ve seen in the United States. Several types of gardens are included here – Japanese garden, rose garden and even an herb garden.

The stroll is a beautiful one – taking in the flowers and plants, as well as the scenery that accents the plant life. The Japanese garden has a beautiful lake as its centerpiece. The flowers that grow on its shore are breathtaking.

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The gardens have a wide selection of flowers

The gardens have a Climatron, which houses tropical and temperate plants. It makes for a great visit during winter, as well as an attractive backdrop for outdoor photos and views.

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The botanical gardens’ climatron is open year around

The gardens host special exhibits throughout the year, such as the recent Chinese lanterns.

Missouri State History Museum

The Missouri History Museum is an amazing place to check out. And it’s hard to believe it’s free. It has four main sections. Each covers separate periods of St. Louis history. The exhibits change throughout the year, so you can visit often and see new things.

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Jefferson Memorial welcomes visitors to the state history museum

As you enter the museum, you see a statue of Thomas Jefferson. It’s a replica of the one in Washington, DC.

During our visit, we viewed a special exhibit on “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello.” It described life on Jefferson’s plantation, as well as his relationships with slaves, including Sally Hemings, who he is alleged to have fathered children with.

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Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson was President during the Louisiana Purchase.

An exhibit covered Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the new land acquired from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Another exhibit examined life in St. Louis during the early years, as part of the city’s 250th birthday in 2014.

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Early St. Louis history

Sports have long been popular in St. Louis, and some items on display covered the baseball and football history.

Since it was during the city’s birthday celebration that we visited, the museum had a large exhibit covering 250 items of importance – 50 each of people, places, moments, events and objects.

Public Library

Being married to Lisa has forced me to go to libraries. Err, we love checking out old public libraries in cities that we visit (when we can). St. Louis’ main library is an attraction. The library is among the few buildings recognized by the American Institute of Architects for its design. The library was recognized for its use of Beaux Art.

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St. Louis Public Library

The library offers a visitor’s guide that highlights 10 items for viewing. The Grand Foyer was first on our list for its Beaux Art.

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Beautiful artwork at the library

A seating area near the entrance makes use of alabaster work on the wall, with marble lamps.

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Public library bench area

The library is home of the one most enchanting stained glass windows we’ve seen.

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Wonderful stained glass

The library even has a climate-controlled special collections room, which features several great works, including the “Canterbury Tales.”

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Climate-controlled classics

Ballpark Village

One of the city’s newest entertainment venues, Ballpark Village has something for almost everyone. It’s located across the street from Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.

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Ballpark Village is a great place to dine, enjoy sports and check out Cardinals’ history

We had the opportunity to visit a month or so before it opened. It was amazing how quickly construction finished, so the facility could open on time in 2014.

It houses a couple of sports bars and restaurants – Fox Sports Midwest live and Cardinals Nation. Cardinals Nation has a museum and Hall of Fame dedicated to local pro baseball.

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Cardinals Nation is home to the team’s Hall of Fame and museum

The Budweiser Brewhouse offers visitors a multi-floor place to gather and have fun. It has a patio on the third floor, allowing a view of the baseball stadium, as well as downtown St. Louis (including the Arch).

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View of the arch from Budweiser Brewhouse balcony

Music enthusiasts may enjoy checking out PBR (Pro Bull Riding) for country music and a mechanical bull. Others may enjoy checking out Howl at the Moon for some dueling piano action.

Regardless, Ballpark Village is one of our favorite places to visit.

Old Courthouse

The Old Courthouse building where the famous case of “Dred Scott” was decided. He and his wife were slaves, but sued for their freedom. They won. Then, lost on appeal. The building does a good job of telling the story of Dred Scott. It also houses exhibits related to the area’s history.

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The Old Courthouse – site of the historical Dred Scott slavery case

I enjoy walking the old stairs to view the room where the Scott case was likely held. If you close your eyes, maybe you can imagine life in the 1860s and what things the Scotts (and others) had to endure.

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Courtroom where Dred Scott case was decided

Museum of Transportation

We think the Museum of Transportation should change the name to “Trains and more.” The museum has a large train collection. And that’s cool. We had Lisa’s uncle and dad with us during our visit. Her uncle is a huge train enthusiast, so he was pretty much in heaven.

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The St. Louis Museum of Transportation

The museum’s collection of vehicles runs from the 1800s through the modern era. One of the trains I liked was a Union Pacific “snow thrower.” The engine had huge snow clearing equipment in front, for use in the mountains.

The museum has a great car collection. The cars are kept in a climate-controlled building. One of the cars on display was once owned by actor Bobby Darin. It was a hand-made 1953 model that took several years to make.

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This one-of-a-kind car once belonged to actor Bobby Darin

Magic House

The Magic House is one gem we would have likely passed on visiting, had it not been for our niece Starla. She was spending a few weeks with the grandparents, so the five of us went to Magic House for a couple of hours of “trying to wear down” Starla. That didn’t seem to work. The 5-year-old is a ball of fire.

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Our niece Starla at The Magic House children’s museum

We all had a great time at Magic House, which is a converted Victorian mansion. We played in the Bubble Room. Starla stood in a shower-looking spot while I pulled a ring of soap up, seeing how high we could go before it popped. We made it a couple of feet.

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St. Louis’ children’s museum

Starla worked a bubble organ in the St. Louis Blues playroom.

The house had a music room, where could use several items to create sound.

A popular attraction is the beanstalk that covers three floors.

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Jack’s bean stalk

Last, but not least, is…

Fitz’s

Located in the Loop District. The district is popular with people of all ages, especially college students, because it’s centrally located for a couple of schools.

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Fitz’s is home to root beer, creme soda and a few more great tasting drinks

Fitz’s offers handmade root beer and crème soda. The restaurant offers a variety of other drinks, as well. The soda is “brewed” and bottled onsite.

Fitz’s offers some excellent food, but may be better known for its root beer floats. The staff are artists. They manage to get the ice cream scoop to lay perfectly at the top of the mug, with the root beer chilling below. The mixture of the soda and the vanilla ice cream is delicious.

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The most delicious root beer float in all of the land

Outside Fitz’s, a statue of Rock legend Chuck Berry greets passersby. Berry’s restaurant – Blueberry Hill – is across the street.

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Chuck Berry’s statue

It’s always difficult to come up with a list of “Top” anything, because some other great places get left out.

For that reason, we offer a few “honorable mention” attractions:

The Basilica

The Catholic Church’s preeminent cathedral in St. Louis, the Basilica offers visitors a mesmerizing view of beauty and extravagance. Gold and mosaic art adorn the arches on the ceilings. The lower level of the cathedral has a museum of mosaics.

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St. Louis’ basilica

St. Louis Culinary Tours

St. Louis Culinary Tours is one of the nation’s best foodie tours. You visit neighborhoods and focus on the food being served in the local restaurants. While we didn’t get the chance to take a tour, we took a “mini” tour at The Restaurant at the Cheshire.

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Entree sample from St. Louis Culinary Tour

Chef Rex Hale prepared samples for us to try during our visit. Everything was delicious!

Jefferson Barracks Museum and National Cemetery

The Jefferson Barracks Museum covers the history of the area during the American Civil War. It includes some additional items, such as World War I, etc.

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Artifact at the Jefferson Barracks museum

The national cemetery has soldiers and family members buried there. The first person there was the daughter of a soldier stationed at the fort in 1827. It has veterans and active duty personnel buried there, ranging from the Indian wars to the current Middle Eastern battles.

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A deer among the veterans cemetery

Lastly, visitors can learn about area residents who served in the military at the Soldier Memorial Military Museum. A favorite display of mine is a case with uniforms that has three flags in front of it.

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The St. Louis Soldier Museum

Among the war memorabilia are helmets from a few countries, weapons from several wars and a bell from the USS St. Louis.

Top 10 lists are purely the discretion of the author. We all have our favorite places. Here are 10 and a few more from our trips to St. Louis. Go and work on your own favorite Top 10 lists. What else might you include?

For more information on St. Louis and its attractions, please visit www.explorestlouis.com.